Just like every other kid around, I loved Halloween. The costumes, running around the neighborhood, the pumpkins on the doorsteps… and of course, the candy. My sister and I would dump it all out on the floor at the end of the night and line it up, making trades and exchanges, making sure we could get our hands on as many of our favorites as possible and leaving a discard pile for those few that neither of us liked (you couldn’t have paid me to eat an Almond Joy as a child).
As a nutrition coach, you might assume I’d be one of those people writing about “how to make Halloween healthier” by giving out non-candy alternatives or suggesting that parents exchange all of the candy overnight into a book or a toy. But, that’s not what I believe. I don’t want candy to be associated with guilt and shame, and to be immediately replaced by some other ‘treat’. The few days around Halloween are not the issue.
Instead, I believe that if we are role models every day, our kids will develop a good relationship with food and will be able to figure out when and how much to indulge. Studies show that children who have regular access to candy and treats tend to eat them moderately, while kids that see them as ‘forbidden foods’ tend to load up when available, even if they aren’t hungry. The Ellyn Satter Institute, a nonprofit focused on feeding and eating, says that “if treats are forbidden or shameful, kids will not know how to deal when faced with them.”
With my kids, it’s all about moderation. I let them have treats. I have some treats myself. Not always, but here and there, candy or treats can be part of a snack or a meal. They know that sugar doesn’t do anything good for them, but they also know that if they have a few treats, it’s going to be OK.
And as for Halloween… I as a parent know that they’re going to have a blast trick-or-treating creating memories with their sisters and friends, probably eat a few too many pieces of candy in the first few days, and then most of that bag is going to sit there in the cabinet until they forget about it and I throw it out to make space for Christmas!